Prepared for a surprise review?

Just kidding.  After Earth wasn’t good. (And hey, at least this is the end of the bad scifi movies that have come out so far.  Hopefully.)

The good news though: it’s not the worst thing Shyamalan has done by far (Lady in the Water, the Happening, and the Last Airbender are duking it out for that distinction), but it’s still watchable enough.  The big problem to me was the biggest clunker of a line ever, from Cypher Rage: “Everything has evolved on Earth to kill humans.”

This is obviously stupid, mainly because humanity left earth a thousand years prior to the start of the film.  How can something evolve to kill something that hasn’t been there to evolve against?!

And then the movie completely abandons that conceit too (well, except for the random temperature fluctuations) with boneheaded decisions by Kitai Rage, Cypher’s son, or at least some of them (that gorilla charge in the beginning? Caused because the dumbshit threw a rock at a lone gorilla’s head).  There’s other logic breakdowns too: for example; an anti-toxin for something you haven’t encountered in a thousand years and shouldn’t have an anti-toxin for such a thing anyway?  Blind monsters that react to fear?  And that overnight freezing bit?  How do all the plants actually come back from that?

It’s those stupid inconsistencies and more that prevent this movie from being any good, because there was, strangely, a decent movie beneath all of this[1].  This didn’t have any of Shyamalan’s gimmicky twists this time, but rather, a more linear storyline with a few flashbacks peppered throughout.

The story is as follows: Kitai just failed the ranger exam, which would have allowed him to join the rangers in being able to fight off the Ursa, those blind pheromone smelling beasts that kill humans without remorse (my god that’s a dumb idea, just reiterating that).  Kitai, as a ranger, would have also achieved a phenomena known as “ghosting”, wherein one loses all fear and is in complete control of his body and emotions.  They’re undetectable to the Ursa, so they’re in effect the perfect defense.  Meanwhile, Cypher comes back from a mission, and decides to take on one more: taking a captured Ursa sack and transporting it to a training grounds for ghosts in training.  The transport mission hits an asteroid field of sorts, and they enter a wormhole, which leads them to a quarantined Earth.  Cue story to get off of planet Earth, with Kitai going towards the broken off tail section, since Cypher was injured in the crash.  There are trust and parenting issues happening: Cypher hasn’t been around a lot because of his constant mission happening, and Kitai blames his father for a few things, one of which involves his older sister.

It’s probably that dynamic where the film succeeds the most, and if there were a stronger setup I would have given the film a pass based on that alone.  But this is Shyamalan, and expectations are low in general for a good film from him.  That said, those low expectations make this film kinda okay.  It’s better than his recent stuff, which is a step in the right direction.

It’s still not good though.  Maybe he’ll get better?

Someday?

[1] The normal thing to make in a Shyamalan movie is how everyone loses their ability to act.  I’m not going to do that here.  Will Smith is appropriately stoic (the whole ghosting thing, remember?), and Jaden Smith is the rebellious teenager.  Jaden still needs to find some range, but the acting was hardly the worst thing to come from this film.

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